Identity = Habits

Have you ever encountered a habit that you’d like to make (or break) that seems to go against your nature? Maybe that means waking up early when you consider yourself a night owl or sticking to a budget when you consider yourself spontaneous.

For me, as long as I continue believing that I am not the type of person who does this or that, I won’t. Gretchen Rubin put this idea into words in her book Better than Before when she talked about the “Strategy of Identity” for behavior change.

Basically, one way to change a habit is to re-imagine yourself as the type of person who does that habit.

I used to run, but would proudly say “I hate running” when anyone asked. After signing up for and training for my 9 mile run (it’s two weeks away!), I have begun to see things differently. It’s not just running that I view differently, it is how I view myself. I find me referring to myself as a runner. I began to actually think of myself as a person who runs. This is helpful in getting out of bed and logging those long miles on Saturdays. It’s no longer a question of whether or not I can muster the willpower to put one foot in front of the other. I am a runner, and runners run.

I’ve been trying to use this approach to punctuality, and it seems to be working. I consider myself a fairly responsible grownup (most days) but have always had a problem being on time. I’ve started telling myself that responsible people arrive early to things, and since I am a responsible person (or so I tell myself), I must arrive early.

The use of this strategy seems limitless, as you can shift your identity focus for anything. I’m a big believer in the idea that changing your thoughts can change your world. For me, using this to my advantage means thinking about my identity and how it relates to what I do each day.

It also begs the question, “Who do I want to be?” Reminding myself of this question can really influence my thoughts. I want to be patient and kind and hardworking and growth-oriented. To start thinking of myself as striving for certain qualities leads me to naturally improve my habits.

What habit could improve in your life if you changed the way you viewed yourself?

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